“A nurse in Somalia and the current call to increase women’s membership in the Canadian Armed Forces. A retrospective re-interpretation.”


  • ISABEL CAMPBELL, PHD Directorate of History and Heritage, NDHQ, Ottawa


This piece offers new insights into the 1993 Canadian deployment to Somalia (known as Operation Deliverance), adding to the historiography by revealing how a naval nursing officer serving in this operation used her professional and gender-specific skills to enhance United Nations (UN) operational goals. Looking back at the constructed memories of this woman offers us a rare glimpse into how that deployment changed her as a person, as a nurse, and as an officer, increasing her confidence in nursing ethical practices and in her leadership abilities. This retrospective account, drawing upon the author’s 2021 whole life oral history interviews with Rebecca Patterson, government reports, and selective works about this event, tells a compelling story and, for the first time, demonstrates how gender influenced the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF’s) ability to provide key operational capabilities in Somalia.



Author Biography

ISABEL CAMPBELL, PHD, Directorate of History and Heritage, NDHQ, Ottawa

Isabel Campbell is a Senior historian at the Directorate of History and Heritage, NDHQ, Ottawa, a Senior Fellow at the Bill Graham Centre, University of Toronto, and a research adjunct professor at Carleton University. The author of Unlikely Diplomats. The Canadian Brigade in Germany, 1951-1964, she is the lead historian for volume three of the official history of the Royal Canadian Navy and a contributing author for volume four of the official history of the Royal Canadian Air Force.  She has published on the North Atlantic alliance, nuclear strategy, service families, intelligence sharing and oceanographic research in the early Cold War and is currently editing a book on early Cold War labour for the Canadian security state.






indigenous women in the military